Lean manufacturing - Summary on Barriers and Improvement Needed
Centre of Excellence for Advanced Manufacturing
Faculty of Manufacturing Engineering
UniversitiTeknikal Malaysia Melaka
PROF MADYA DR MOHDRIZAL BIN SALLEH
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In the competitive markets of 21st
century, most of the manufacturing environment
demands diversity of products at controlled reduced cost, shorten lead time with higher or better
quality products. This is major wake up call for the companies to implement the lean
manufacturing. The lean manufacturing is suitable strategy that been recognized globally as
efficient and effective manufacturing operations which allies with the waste elimination such as
inventory, waiting, defects/rejects, unnecessary motion, over processing, over production and
transportation whereby generally known as 7 type of lean manufacturing wastes . The main
objective of lean is to eliminate overall unnecessary activities and variations during
manufacturing process and only focus on the continuous improvement to meet customers
demand and requirements . Even though some researcher claimed that the lean
manufacturing wasadapted from Toyota Production System (TPS) which implemented by
TaiichiOhno in Japan to suit on the western manufacturing systems but the implementation of
the lean manufacturing was not fully success on Western companies , , . The crucial
idea of the lean manufacturing is lean thinking, which is far most persuasive intelligent
architecture for the various systematic changes. Few world class companies such as Boeing,
Ford and General Motors had benefits from the lean manufacturing while on other hand
numbers of SMEs had failed on the implementation of lean manufacturing and also noted that
there were many others who not yet ready or start the lean manufacturing environment.
Basically the lean manufacturing concepts failed on certain companies due to lack of
understanding on the wide range of lean manufacturing, lack of organizational readiness, loss of
the tribal knowledge which means employees with manufacturing process experience
andknowledge, normalization of common tooling and subcomponents with value stream
mapping . Meanwhile Herron and Braiden, also found that the western thinking on the lean
manufacturing is not the same as Japanese thinking or writings, the point are thatthe cultural
variance between the originator of the concept (Japan) and the envisionedbeneficiary is a
majorfactor in the latent success or failure of a lean manufacturing packages. That had made
the techniques oflean manufacturing are unambiguous but have becomeconfused by re-
classifications and the obviousdesire in the west to present solution packages.Whilst the
basictools of manufacturing best practice are isolatedfor extremevalue and sustainability they
aredependent on each other’s, which is frequently notrespected .
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2. Barriers to Lean Manufacturing
(a). Over focus on Lean tools
Lean is just a tool that can be used to optimizethe overall productivity such as Single
Minute Exchange of DIE (SMED), Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), 5S Method, Work
Signaling System (KanBan), Error & Mistake-Prooﬁng (Poka-yoke), Level-Loading (Heijunka),
Inventory Reduction, Kaizen Events (Kaizen Blitzes or Improvement Events), Continuous
Improvement and Lean Culture Change. In order to achieve the best out of the lean
manufacturing system, management support or the organization’s direction to train the
employee for the new ways of thinking, working and communication is needed for the success
of lean system. This will need the organization makes the workforce believe and fully
understand the lean and held responsibility is their respective areas of work and it’s required
massive transformation efforts by removing barriers, redesign the process, empowering people
and integrating across organizations .
(b). Implement Kaizen without planning
Generally Kaizen will referred as Continuous Improvement (CI) whereby continuously
improving on the established processes or the system. Usually to have short and focused
improvements easy to implement but to keep it going is the hardest part. This hurdle can be
overcome with clear goals and focus from the organization .
(c). Insufficient programme for Lean by organization
The organization need to be in full force to support the workforce by providing
information, process knowledge and learning. The organization must have firm characteristic so
set goals and objective to reach higher sustainable returns than competitors. The groups of
resources need to be formed by combining unique talents and knowledge to have more
competence in lean manufacturing , .
(d). Organizational behavior and thinking process
Among any production system, there will be some level of operating procedure which
developed or initiate by lean projects earlier but unable to sustain for longer terms once the
project teams leaves or re-assign to new task. The needs for the procedure might change over
the time and unless people clearly understand what to do for the new procedure, the
continuance of the lean can’t be practiced and unless thesuperiors in respective area are
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supportiveto the lean program. Regularly the production supervisors or managersfeel
susceptible by the lean program if they not fully understand the new approaches. The study by
Punnakitikashem et al. shows organizational behaviors could play a major role in understand,
implementations and deployment of the lean manufacturing .
(e). Not setting and monitoringclear targets
The core objective or goals of the lean is truly to phase out the waste and create process
flow that initiated by customer demands. There were few questions discussed by Ross A and
Francis D  which highlights whether i) Cost reduction should be key goal of the lean? ii)
Should lean manufacturing be the root of the manufacturing company strategy? The obvious
answer is ‘NO’ for the both questions since the lean ideas is driven by business organization
with absolute belief on the targets to drive and measure the improvement till it achieve the
desired goals set earlier. Often changes on the targets or goals will dampen the lean
manufacturing performances overall.
(f). Inappropriate tools or techniques used
There is vast of tools or techniques can be adapted in the manufacturing management
such as Six-Sigma (6Σ), Total Quality Management (TQM), Agile Manufacturing (AM), Theory of
Constraints (TOC), and Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), a part of Lean Manufacturing
(LM). Each tool has its own strength and weakness depending on needs by the organizations
, , , , , . The lack of classification and inadequate understanding of lean tools had
resulted in many misapplications, the common mishandling are i) wrong tools used to solve a
problem, ii) use a single tool to solve all problems and iii) same group of tools used to solve all
problems. To overcome these tools mishandling issue, the organization or the Project Lead for
lean need to clearly understand since some of it might not be tools but just merely concept and
it may overlap each other’s .
(g). Culture Variances
The lean ideology originated from Japan back then 1940’s, where the cultural
characteristics are considerably different from the Western countries. The cultural difference can
be a key factor in possible success or failure of the revolution program in the organizations.
When Western adopts the Japanese methods in lean, it might be re-classified or modified to suit
the Western culture or the working environment which eventually didn’t turn out as same results
as Japanese system. The researchers can identify the tools used in Japanese manufacturing
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system, which the west call as 'leantools' such as SMED, JIT, Kaizen etc. but they have not
been adopted in isolation and ultimately they weredeveloped for a reason, which was to support
an overall strategy , . Lean manufacturing methods have been established to fit within the
Japanese society while to exploit them to the full inthe Western businesses, the diverse cultural
norms in the West must be well-thought-out.
3. How to Overcome or Avoid Mistakes in Lean Manufacturing
Lean manufacturing’s requirement are very clear, the changes will be happen with the
support of all involved parties. The operations or manufacturing strategies for the lean
manufacturing will not be completely dependent on the tools or techniques only, but also on the
level of understanding of both remaining and future organizational manners. Apparently
organization needs to illuminatethe concept of lean manufacturing and how it assists the firm to
progress and survive in the economical markets. Most of organizations lack a clear statement
of mission, vision and values which leads to revolution being focused from the central of the
organization and a substantial lack of incorporation makes lean manufacturing unable to sustain
in certain organizations .Another key important element to consider is that a process is value
added if the added process or the changes on physical materials able create additional
customer value and meet or exceed customer expectations / specifications .
The ambiguity onLean Manufacturing that once led companies to hesitation whether it
was suit for common manufacturing has long been vanished. As of today, is it widely accepted
that lean is for everyone, it is not just limited to thecertain sector or for worldwideorganizations.
It’s all now depends only to how well we can you do it? If it is not effectively applied, it will incur
loss of income to the organizations and under-serving the customer’s requirements. The
achievement of effectiveexecution of lean manufacturing is not only reliant on the correct usage
of tools of lean manufacturing but establishing for lean manufacturing system and planning for
its application is very vital. It is very important for top management and all others to understand
lean thinking and lean principles.
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